The Basics: Safety Comes First

Sometimes warnings of potential natural disaster are broadcast well in advance. But in an emergency situation, you and those working with you may have less than 20 minutes to respond.

When every minute counts, having evacuation procedures (and routes) plus a communication plan can be life-savers.

The Best Course: Go or Stay?

Use available information and common sense. When an evacuation is not mandatory, deciding whether to stay or leave should depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • the nature of the event

  • your location (are you in an official evacuation area?)

  • the condition of transportation routes (are the roads clear?)

  • the type of structure your studio is in

  • your access to transportation and/or to temporary accommodations

  • your preparedness to “shelter in place”

  • your medical needs.

Tip: Among emergency planners, the general wisdom is “Run from water, Hide from wind.”


If you are considering evacuating, ask yourself:

  • Where will we stay, and what advance arrangements are necessary (hotel/motel reservations? a confirmation number?)

  • What supplies will I need, both to travel to my destination and after arriving? (Take enough food, water, medical and disaster supplies for three days, in case you are delayed or cannot reach your place of evacuation.)

  • What public transportation is available if I do not have access to a car or truck?

  • Do I have at least half a tank of gas in my car? 


If you are considering staying put, ask yourself:

  • Has my structure weathered other emergencies? If so, how did it fare?

  • Do I have time to secure the structure’s exterior?

  • Do I have tarps and plastic sheeting?

  • Is there a safe interior room?

  • Do I have a vehicle with a full tank of gas?

  • Do I have adequate food, water, and disaster supplies to survive a week?

  • Do I have a battery-operated radio, with extra batteries?

  • Do I have enough medication, and/or will I have access to medical care if needed?

Evacuation Basics

Whether you have minutes or hours to act, here are the basics to remember for safe evacuation: 

  •  Monitor local radio or TV stations, or check the Internet, for emergency alerts and updates.

  •  Attempt last-minute measures only if they do not endanger you or others.

  •  Leave the building at once if emergency officials instruct you to. If you can’t evacuate, seek safe shelter inside.

  • Attend to the needs of people who require special assistance.

  • Shut off gas, electricity, and water. (If you use propane, turn it off; the cylinder can be displaced in a disaster. If you use natural gas, some emergency officials recommend leaving it on if it will be needed when you return.)

  • Determine a contact method and meeting place with family and coworkers.

  • Take your “quick-grab recovery archive” of vital business and artistic records.

Taking Your Pet Along

  • Do not leave your pet(s) behind — but remember, public shelters will not allow you to bring an animal.

  • Make sure your pet is wearing identification.

  • Bring at least three days’ supplies for your pet, including medications.

  • Bring your vet’s contact information (in general, pharmacies will fill an animal’s prescription).

To learn more: The Humane Society of the United States has a section on its website devoted to Disaster Preparedness for Pets.

Getting to the exit during a fire

Check closed doors for heat before you open them. Use the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, the doorknob, and the crack between the door and door frame before you open it. Never use the palm of your hand or fingers to test for heat. Burning those areas could impair your ability to escape a fire (i.e., ladders and crawling).

Stay low to the floor, crawling under any smoke to your exit. Heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling.

Close doors behind you as you escape to delay the spread of the fire.

Once you’re safely out, stay out. Do not reenter. Call 911.